Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Soap stories

Grab-bag time. Spoilers for, in order, "House," "Bones" and "Gossip Girl" coming up just as soon as I angle my new flatscreen...

It's funny how, in the fictional universe of "House," Amber got the short end of the stick by not making the team, while in the real world of making "House," Anne Dudek seems like the big winner. Where Taub, Kutner and Thirteen get a few minor bits of business each week, Cutthroat Bitch gets her own subplots with Wilson and tends to make far more of an impression each week than the other three combined. ("Cupid" fans: do you think Dudek might make a good remake Claire, assuming she and Bobby Cannavale have chemistry?)

Meanwhile, the writers have started to remember that Chase and Cameron exist. Last week, we got House and Chase's abbreviated bowling date, and this week we got Cameron inserting herself back into House-world for a single case, and showing that, while she's outgrown her crush on House, she misses the work that they did together. I never really had a huge attachment to any of the junior docs when the original team was in place, and yet moments like the "All pretty girls are fungible" scene give me a greater appreciation for them. It's not that they're necessarily better actors or characters than the newbies, but they have years of shared history with House, and that's the sort of thing you can't trade on with Mini-Stud or Kumar.

As for the case itself, it was an amusing payoff to House's long-running soap fixation, but what really struck me was House's hypocrisy in the final scene with Cuddy. He's mad at himself because the "treat, then diagnose" philosophy should have failed, and only succeeded by sheer luck, but he's projecting his anger onto Cuddy because she allegedly is the one who's supposed to put the breaks on him. The problem I have with that -- not from a storytelling perspective, because we know House is a hypocrite, but just from a House's logic perspective -- is that House always gets his way, whether Cuddy tries to stop him or not. Unless the writers use this episode as an excuse to have House pay Cuddy more heed in the future, he was just full of bull there.

A very good "Bones," and I'm impressed by their ability to balance their usual humor with the higher stakes of the dad-on-trial story in a way that never felt awkward. The David Kelley shows (and, in the early going, "Eli Stone") usually use their humor as a crutch to keep viewers from having to take the dramatic material all that seriously, but it flowed much more naturally here. I bought Temperance being concerned for her dad and yet still able to joke with Booth while Sweets was on the stand, for instance.

Speaking of Sweets, good to see how they've contrived to have John Francis Daley join the cast permanently. I'm always happy for a "Freaks and Geeks"er to find grown-up work, and those scenes are often the highlight of each episode. One minor complaint: Brennan joining in with Booth's "Do you like us, Sweets?" mockery outside the courthouse didn't seem in character. For the most part, the writers are very good at mining humor from Brennan's stunted, overly-rational social skills, but this didn't fit.

Finally, I think I'm done with "Gossip Girl." It's not that I think the show is doing anything wrong; if anything, the execution in the post-strike episodes seems higher than previously, as they're using the entire cast better and have made appropriate additions like Michelle Trachtenberg as the evil Georgina.

I've just come to the conclusion that my problem with the show isn't the lack of self-aware "O.C." humor (though there isn't much of that), or that I'm creeped out by all this focus on Cindy Lou Who's sex life (though it was definitely not my favorite part of this episode), or that I feel too old to be watching this show (I've recently gotten hooked on MTV's "The Paper," and am working on a column about it).

I've just come to the realization that I have no interest in who gets to be Queen Bitch of that school, and since that's what's the fundamental focus of the series (and, I presume, the books), it just ain't my cuppa.

What did everybody else think?

18 comments:

joelhunt said...

I also don't really care who wins World War Bee on GG, but I still find the show a worthwhile diversion. It's funny, snarky, and melodramatic, which has turned out to be a nice combo.

If you're interested in giving it another shot, I can't recommend the TWoP recaps enough. I honestly think the recapper (Jacob) has profoundly increased my enjoyment of the show with his remarkable epsiode post-mortems. There are levels to this show, even if they exist only in Jacob's mind, which are astonishing.

Also, Chuck Bass wears a bright orange raincoat! It eez le ridicule!

rhamilton said...

I think Gossip Girl is the best drama extant now that The Wire is done. And I don't miss the self-conscious humor at all: the in-character humor of, ie, "Well, then I'd suggest new hand-towels," is much more elegant, I think.

That said, I really wish last night's episode hadn't ended the way it ended.

mrsb said...

I think Bone's joining in with the teasing of Dr. Sweets was used to show that she is growing as a person. Just as she was willing to hedge the truth (but not outright lie) to keep her father out of jail, she was able to join in some gentle teasing of someone she really does like.

Her deepening friendship with Booth has softened up some of her edges and made her seem more human.

Jennifer said...

Bones was interesting last night, given the setup. (Though I gather from reading TV Squad that the law was all sorts of hinky.) I am still surprised her dad got off, though. Dayum. To make herself as a reasonable suspect- and to force a clearly miserable Booth up there to confirm that she had the time- was pretty powerful to me.

I did wonder why if Max wanted to get Russ out of the apartment so he could commit a murder in it, why he did it in his daughter's own home. Even given her current profession, if you love your kid, would you deliberately choose that location to do it in? I was surprised nobody brought that up. It would make Brennan look like more of a suspect though if SHE didn't care about messing up her place.

(Note: it's been a long time since I saw the murder episode, I may have details wrong on this.)

In other news, I had to enjoy B&B's constant snarking across the aisles, behind coffee cups, and in front of Sweets. Pretty adorable, really. And Angela's refusal to help condemn her best friend's dad to death. And the rivalry between Zach and whatshisname (Clark?). And the "I have lain with a woman, I AM an adult in this society" commentary.

Bruce Reid said...

House felt flat and underdeveloped to me; the threads stitching together the storylines--personal happiness, the need for limits--were there, but slack. The writing was a bit on the nose as well; I couldn't enjoy the "pretty girls are fungible" scene as much as you, Alan, for the predictability of Cameron's exit line. Though I suspect most of this episode, including the ending, is intended as setup for future developments.

I'd have thought they'd gone more meta with a patient who plays a TV doctor, though Laurie humbly accepting the Emmy was fun.

Alan: "A very good "Bones," and I'm impressed by their ability to balance their usual humor with the higher stakes of the dad-on-trial story in a way that never felt awkward."

I'd give a lot of credit to the stars for that. Deschanel's lowkey delivery shifts easily from comic to troubled, while Boreanaz's self-effacing geniality reminds me more of James Garner with each episode. In contrast, the supporting cast seemed by and large a bit more awkward making the transition to serious drama.

Save Daley, who's matured into a nimble scene-stealer. It can't be too many years before his own breakout role on a sitcom, a la Neil Patrick Harris.

Mrglass said...

Last night's House was one of the best of the season, because it was one of the funniest in what is definitely a funny-theme season, after the very dark season 3.

Anyone remembers when Gregory House was in pain and miserable, boozing up and calling escorte girls? None of that this year, I wonder if the series is getting to some sort of happy ending for our favorite doc.

LA said...

Jason Lewis.

'nuf said.

anon said...

do you think Dudek might make a good remake Claire, assuming she and Bobby Cannavale have chemistry?

Yes.

I also agree that she's landed the juiciest role of all the contestants, but I knew that as soon as she was introduced as Wilson's girlfriend.

It's really interesting that the show has so significantly expanded its cast and yet still does not seem to display any desire to become more of a soap. They ignore Cameron and Chase entirely; the Wilson/Amber storyline has soapy potential, but it has so far been kept well-compartmentalized. At this point House is a more committed procedural than quite a few of the current (aging) cop shows.

Anon

Dark Tyler said...

Gossip Girl is awesome exactly because it takes itself absolutely seriously. No self-aware emo teenagers in the vicinity, GG is all about characters who don't they're fictional and therefore feel every little teeny-weeny inch of drama in their bones. Everything is the end of the world, as it should be when you're 16.

I couldn't help but feel that Gossip Girl does exactly what you described Iron Man did so well, Alan. It's light and soapy but never silly. And it's shallow, but the right kind of shallow, the one that takes its characters and treats them as seriously as they deserve to be treated, and not like they're punchlines waiting to happen. (*cough* Shonda Rhimes)

M.A.Peel said...

I think the whole Cuddy/House dynamic is off track. There was more to them than her just being his limit-setter. Like you say with the original docs--there is an interesting, satisfying "extra" to their scenes/interaction, because of their histories with House that the newbies don't have.

Cuddy has even more, deeper House history, but it's been flattened to one, not-so-interesting dimension.

Nicole said...

I have started to like Gossip Girl much more post strike because it seems to be on a roll with its snarky vibe and taking bitch to a new level.
I can't really define why I like it, but even though I am well beyond high school, this show still amuses me.

Anonymous said...

do you think Dudek might make a good remake Claire, assuming she and Bobby Cannavale have chemistry?
I hope not. I simply don't like the actress - never have. At least, when she's Cutthroat Bitch, I'm also supposed to not like the character, and she's not the focus of the episode.

I loved the old Cupid. I wouldn't watch if she were the new Claire.

Karen said...

I have to second joelhunt's recommendation of Jacob's recaps of Gossip Girl at TWoP. Jacob's intense appreciation of character, of motivation, and of narrative structure may seem to some like making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but he actually makes you see that the silk purse was there all along.

Jacob also recaps BSG, but "recap" actually seems too shallow and mingy a word to describe what he does there. It's....transcendant.

lunatic96 said...

I actually had to stop reading Jacob's BSG recaps because there's just too much information in them. I don't have the energy to read them.

Now to switch gears and actually talk about the episode of Gossip Girl, the last scene really seems like a "jump the shark" moment and I hope it doesn't turn out that way

Alan Sepinwall said...

I couldn't help but feel that Gossip Girl does exactly what you described Iron Man did so well, Alan. It's light and soapy but never silly. And it's shallow, but the right kind of shallow, the one that takes its characters and treats them as seriously as they deserve to be treated, and not like they're punchlines waiting to happen. (*cough* Shonda Rhimes)

I'm not saying Gossip Girl is a bad show, guys. If anything, Monday's episode was one of the stronger ones they've done, which is what helped crystallize my disinterest. If I couldn't find myself caring about the characters and subject matter after an episode like that, then it's not the show that's the issue -- it's me. Just not my thing.

Dark Tyler said...

Yeah, I know! I wasn't trying to force you into caring, I was just commenting on a specific thing you said about the general philosophy of the show, where I disagree with you a little bit. After that, to each his own! :)

Anonymous said...

Regarding House's 'hypocrisy', I thought of it as being somewhat like poker, a game not unlike diagnostic medicine in that results are not relevant, but the right decisions and moves are. House basically drew out on the river, and even though he won the hand, he was angry because the way he played it meant he only deserved to win in, well, 5% of situations.

--AH

Kirsten said...

gossip girl is one of the very few shows that i enjoy, but i have to agree on what you said. but i guess the messy sophistication of it is what makes Gossip Girl so attractive.
After last week's shocking revelation, I've been dying for the next episode. Any dish on Serena's supposed "murder"? or the episode in general? Spill the beans! (: